Getting through all of your college applications takes time - whether you applied to an excessive number of schools like I did, or only a few carefully chosen options, you want to give yourself time to work in a stress-free environment and really let your creative juices flow. Now - even though we all struggle with time management and procrastination, it’s important to try to finish your college applications early (for a variety of reasons). Although this can be easier said than done, using some of these reasons to motivate yourself to get your applications done can be useful.
Ability to Enjoy the Holidays:
Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years, you name it - the holidays just HAVE that feeling. You have less motivation to do work and stay on the grind, and everyone starts gathering (friends, families, or whoever you consider to be part of your close circle) to see one another and enjoy some much needed relaxation time. Starting around late November, the holiday breaks start coming, and the year ends with a pretty long chunk of time (1 week, 2 weeks, sometimes even a month) without school or a ton of responsibilities. The last thing you want to have to do is stress about finishing your college applications at the last minute - waking up on Christmas morning to your laptop and the Common App instead of a warm breakfast near the fire - no fun.
Luckily, the UC Application is due at the end of November, which forces you to at least get a big chunk of your work done before December rolls around. However, I’d encourage you to set a deadline similar to the UCs for all of your other applications too. Set an early deadline so that even if you find yourself not making it, you are still ahead of schedule and can have some buffer time to perfect your essays exactly how you want to.
Last Minute Reviews:
And this brings me to the second point - finishing your college applications early can leave time for essential last-minute reviews (including spelling, word choice, grammar, etc.). Do the big-picture edits first, and focus on getting your story down: figure out how to arrange your paragraphs and what topics to focus on, and hone in on finding creative ways to paint a picture for your readers. If all of this is tackled early on, you have time to really focus on the surface level mistakes that people often neglect to correct. These corrections are extremely important because they demonstrate your attention to detail and your ability to tell your story in a clear, professional manner. After all, how embarrassing would it be to spell the name of the college you are applying to incorrectly, just because you didn’t leave enough time to do some in depth spelling and grammar checks?
Additionally, this can leave you time to hone in on the perfect word choice. When rushed, people often end up just pulling out a thesaurus to find fancy-sounding words, which is really obvious when the admissions office reads your essay. You want to give yourself time to find imaginative words that actually make sense in context, and use them as inspiration to rewrite some of your sentences if needed.
(Sometimes) Colleges Admit on a Rolling Basis:
This is not the reality for most colleges, however pay close attention to any schools you are applying to that have a “rolling” application window. This means that applying earlier can get you admitted earlier, and could raise your chances if you apply while the acceptance pool is still small. For these schools, you really do not want to wait until the last minute.
For colleges that do not admit on a rolling basis, this is not the case, as they review all applications at the same time beginning only after the submission window has closed (such as the UCs).
Post-Application Growth and Enjoying High School:
After you submit your applications, your brain has a chance to shift its focus towards other things: maybe that means pulling your grades up even more in the last semesters to show growth, or maybe that means finally taking that leadership position before you head off to college. Or, maybe you simply want to be able to wholeheartedly focus on the last months of high school and make memories to last a life-time. This is so much easier done when you don’t have the burden of college applications hanging over your head.
Generally, I found that the longer I gave myself to do my college applications, the less productive I was. Giving yourself an early deadline can help you be more efficient when you sit down to work on your applications, and can ultimately leave you more time in the end to finish out the year doing things you really care about.
When you are stressed, sometimes you can be resourceful and motivated, however working in an environment of anxiety and being rushed can lead to you cutting corners and having a lack of creativity. When it comes to your college application essays, it’s important to be creative and imaginative in finding eloquent ways to tell your story, and when you’re stressed you tend to do whatever will help you finish as quickly as possible. Therefore, your words might even sound rushed and straightforward, while someone that started earlier can stay in a more creative, patient headspace and find colorful ways to show who they are.
Being stressed about your application timeline can ultimately impact your word choice, your attention to detail, and your overall brainstorming techniques/topic choices. Don’t sell yourself short! Give yourself the calming atmosphere needed to brainstorm and find the most creative and unique way to tell your story - don’t settle for the most straightforward topic just because you don’t have time for anything else. Allow yourself to go through all the steps of brainstorming, writing, editing, polishing (multiple times), and give yourself ample time at the end for the surface level edits that can really tie it all together.
Lastly, no matter what, never wait until the last day of the filing period to submit your application! You never know what technical difficulties, internet issues, life challenges, or random circumstances could come in the way of you crossing the finish line. You want to eliminate all possibilities of something happening that is out of your control, since there are no colleges that will be forgiving about a late submission. You will not be able to apply for that upcoming academic cycle, and will have to either choose another college to attend, or wait until the next year to apply - no one wants to be in that position just because they waited a tiny bit too long! You’ve done so much work leading up to this, so make sure that you give yourself all the time in the world to have a stress-free submission process in the end.
Sarah is a Consultant and Social Media Marketing Manager on the Study Hall College Consulting Team. Sarah graduated from UC Berkeley in the class of 2020 where she majored in Architecture and minored in Spanish Language and Literature. For more college application and essay tips, check out our Study Hall College Consulting website at: shcollegeconsulting.com.